By MARK TODD and MARGIE NETZEL - Staff Writers
CONNEAUT — Conneaut Law Director David Schroeder has been appointed Ashtabula County Western County Court judge by Gov. John Kasich, officials said.
Schroeder will begin his tenure on the bench March 18, according to a statement from the governor’s office. He must run in November 2014 to keep the seat for the full term, which ends Dec. 31, 2016.
In the meantime, Schroeder must step down as law director, a position he has held since April 2010, he said Monday. “I cannot stay as law director,” he said.
There is a chance, however, Schroeder could continue to do legal work in some capacity for the city. The Western County position is part time and judges are permitted to maintain a practice. Conneaut City Council called a special meeting late Monday afternoon to discuss in executive session options regarding the position.
At the closed-door session, Council President Tom Udell said council asked the administration to give members a list of options on how to handle the situation.
Schroeder said he would like to remain with the city’s legal department. “I hope to be staying in some capacity, or at least assist during the transition process,” he said.
Conneaut’s assistant law director, Carly Prather, was hired two years ago. She is a 2002 Conneaut High School graduate.
Schroeder was one of three people recommended by the county’s Republican Party to succeed Richard Stevens, who officially retired at the end of last year after many years of service. Schroeder and the other two nominees were interviewed by Kasich’s chief legal counsel and others two weeks ago, he said.
Schroeder, who has practiced law for more than 30 years, said he is excited about the opportunity. “It is every lawyer’s dream” to conclude their career on the bench, he said.
Conneaut City Manager Tim Eggleston confirmed Monday afternoon that Schroeder wants to continue working for the city and is researching any ethical issues. “I’m very happy (Schroeder) got the appointment and I hope everything works out for him,” Eggleston said.
During his three years as Conneaut law director, Schroeder has taken an active role in a number of municipal matters, including the city’s crackdown on blighted housing. “I feel Conneaut has turned a corner,” he said Monday.
Last fall, Schroeder was the Republican candidate for Ashtabula County prosecutor, taking on long-time incumbent Thomas Sartini. Schroeder lost, but garnered 48 percent of the vote. His showing in the election may have helped chances of succeeding Stevens, Schroeder said.
“I was a candidate in a contested election who came pretty close to (defeating) a 16-year incumbent,” he said.
Stevens, who presided over Geneva’s courtroom for 30 years, said Monday he has no words of advice for Schroeder, just words of encouragement.
“I have no advice to give, but if he has any questions, I’ll be happy to be here for guidance,” Stevens said. (Schroeder) is well prepared for this job.”
Stevens resigned his post at the courthouse in December to focus on his private law practice. The judgeship is a big job, Stevens said — Western County Court handles between 4,000 and 7,000 cases annually.
“Mr. Schroeder has practiced in my court over the years,” Stevens said, “and I know him to be a very fine, competent attorney, very conscientious. I’m sure he will do a very fine job.”
Schroeder may find that the easiest part of being a judge is the actual judging, Stevens said.
“There is a lot to learn at the outset,” he said, “especially the administrative aspects of the court. At times, the judging is the easier part of the job.”